Cleric Hassan Rowhani has been declared Iran’s new president, the interior minister says, in an outright election victory that ends eight years of conservative grip on the top office.
Rowhani, 64, a former top nuclear negotiator who has championed more constructive engagement with world powers, won outright with 18.6 million votes, or 50.68 per cent of those cast.
Announcing Rowhani’s win on Saturday, Interior Minister Mohammad Mostafa Najjar said 36.7 million people, or 72.7 per cent of the electorate, had voted on Friday.
More than 50.5 million Iranians had been eligible to vote for a successor to Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who was constitutionally barred from standing again after serving two consecutive terms.
Rowhani’s tally was enough to ensure there would be no run-off against the runner-up, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who was in distant second place with 6.07 million votes.
Current nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, was third with 3.17 million.
The withdrawal of the sole reformist from the race had left the field open for Rowhani to win the votes of both moderates and reformists and establish a large lead over his divided hardline opponents.
Former first vice president Mohammad Reza Aref pulled out on Tuesday at the urging of reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami, who then threw his weight behind Rowhani.
Rowhani inherits an economy that has been badly hit by EU and US sanctions targeting the key oil and banking sectors.
Friday’s election was the first since the disputed 2009 re-election of Ahmadinejad triggered massive street protests by supporters of his rivals, that were crushed in a deadly crackdown.
In 2003, when Rowhani was top nuclear negotiator under Khatami, the Islamic republic agreed to suspend its controversial enrichment of uranium.
The program restarted two years later when Ahmadinejad was first elected.
Iran has been at loggerheads with world powers over its nuclear drive, which the West suspects is aimed at developing an atomic weapon capability.
Tehran denies the charge, but the sanctions imposed over the stand-off have isolated it internationally.
In campaigning, Rowhani pledged to move to ease the sanctions, which have led to severe economic pain.
Inflation is raging at more than 30 per cent, the rial has lost nearly 70 per cent of its value, and unemployment is rising.
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